I’ve been offered representation by an agent but they don’t have their client list on their website and they won’t tell me how many clients they represent. Should I be worried?
Well, like most things in this industry, I guess it depends. Not having a client list available for everyone to see is quite common. I’ve been told by some agents that they don’t make their list public in order to stop other agents from poaching their clients which I suppose is understandable. It is however frustrating for actors, particularly as you are often advised to have a look at an agent’s client list to make sure you’re not a direct clash with another client.
Perhaps the agent doesn’t want to share that information because some actors think there’s an ideal number of clients an agent should have. I’ve met with actors who’ve been taught in drama school that the average number of clients per agent is 100 and I’ve met with clients who think it should be 60. I guess, if you’re wondering about how many clients a particular agent has, then the question you might really be asking is ‘how many is too many?’
There’s a well-known story here in London about a young up-and-coming actress who had a small role in a good play at an excellent venue. At the first-night party after the show an agent from one of the biggest agencies was chatting to her. “You were fabulous tonight,” the agent said. “Who represents you?” “You do,” replied the actress.
While the story may be apocryphal it’s a cautionary tale that lots of small and mid-size agents tell graduates when warning them about the dangers of signing with a huge agency – it’s otherwise known as the little fish in a big pond parable. What the story doesn’t take into account is that the agent in question had three assistants who ran most of the day-to-day management of the list. A ‘power agent’ with three people to help them can certainly have a much larger list of clients than a small or boutique agent who is doing everything themselves. You might be a little fish in a big pond but it’s a highly efficient and well-organised pond! Think about what’s important to you – might you sacrifice a little bit of personal attention in order to have the weight of a behemoth agency behind you?
The number of clients an agent displays on their website isn’t always an accurate reflection of how many clients they have available and looking for work. Many clients are likely to be in long-term jobs, some may be taking a break for personal reasons. How many clients an agent can have really depends on the agent. If I had sixty clients who were all in long-running West End shows I’d be sat twiddling my thumbs most of the day. Sixty clients who are all out of work would keep me very busy indeed. A new agent just starting out might only be comfortable with a small list whereas an agent with decades of experience might be able to manage twice as many. An agent who mainly deals in commercials might have a huge list of non-exclusive clients – there’s no easy answer to ‘how many clients is too many?’
However ‘how many clients do you have?’ is an easy question to answer and not answering that question is a bit worrying. Perhaps they don’t know how many clients they have? That could be a red flag in some instances. Maybe they have hundreds of clients and you want an agent who offers personal attention and individual career development. Maybe they have dozens of clients who all look like you? For me communication and trust is fundamental to a good actor/agent relationship and just like ‘how much commission do you take?’ is a pretty basic question, so too is asking an agent to tell you a little bit about they type of clients they represent and how many. Not answering, or not wanting to answer such a basic question may well be an indication of things to come.
Stay connected. Stay creative.
Got a question? Email JBR at [email protected]